I came up with these tips for querying agents when I started querying my book THE KINGS OF CARNIN: RISE OF ARI to agents about eight months ago.
First, I created a list of agents based on some online resources and the suggestions of published folks. Each agent was ranked based on their success with clients.
I chose to send off a batch of snail mail queries first. My first rejection was exciting; a badge of honor. Now that I had it I felt I was truly well on my way to publishdom. The second was less exciting and the fourth was just plain discouraging. Querying agents is a really emotional process, one where every letter or email sent faces an astonishing battle of the odds.
One of my queries, the third to this agent I’ll admit, resulted in a “partial.” This is where the agent wants to see the first chunk of the manuscript. Huzzah, finally people can see my work! That’s what I had been saying all along – “if only they could read this.” That rejection was particularly sobering and quite a setback. Thankfully, some feedback from Book Country members came in shortly thereafter and restarted the passion for my work. Now I can hardly wait for an agent to request my first “full” – the whole manuscript – and maybe even representation!
The road to querying agents is a tricky one. Making your voice stand out from 40,000 others (not an exaggeration with many agents) is a huge challenge. Here are some tips based on my own querying journey.
Never, ever query an agent without having finishing your manuscript first. By “finishing,” I mean written and spit polished to a blinding shine. Once that’s done, do the same for your query letter. I made the mistake of sending out two different letters which, in hindsight, were horrible. I could have saved myself the rejections (and the agent’s time) if I had workshopped my query first. Resources like Query Shark and Evil Editor give you examples of what doesn’t work and, on occasion, what does. If you’re brave enough you can have your query torn apart as well. Evil Editor did a number on my first query, but it deserved it.
Do a lot of research
Know your agent. Like, really know your agent. The more you know about their tastes and reading preferences the better off you’ll be. Not only will this help you tailor your query letter, it will tell you if this agent is even the right one to begin with. Know what genres the agent is interested in. Recently I discovered, via their Twitter feed, that an agent I had queried was not accepting High Fantasy queries at the moment. Oops! That meant I was in for an auto-rejection, an easy one to avoid if I’d properly researched. Get onto Google, Publishers Marketplace, Twitter, Literary Rejections, Agent Query, and similar resources to learn all you can about your dream agent. Use interviews and information posted by authors currently represented by that agent to give you a leg up. Even interacting on Twitter with the agent directly is a great way to get information.
Writing is an subjective industry and agents all have specific ideas in mind about the projects they want to represent. They may have a very specific thing in mind. The odds of your project fitting that idea are very small. When an agent rejects your letter, keep that in mind. It’s not you, or your project, it’s just not for them at this moment.
If an agent rejects you after a full – something I’ve yet to experience – they’ll probably pass on some reasons why and maybe some advice. Take those to heart and come back to them after letting your work sit for a month or so. Get another draft done or perhaps move onto a new project for the time being.
Agents are people, too! They hate giving rejections as much as you hate getting them. Finding an agent is a professional endeavor and your conduct should reflect that. Professional courtesy is a must, particularly on Twitter, and especially after the agent has rejected you. Querying is a tricky and time consuming task, but be persistent! And never, ever, give up.
Do you have tips for querying agents, too? Share them on Book Country!